US/Germany | 2013 |
Directed by Blair Erickson
Logline: Whilst researching the disappearance of a friend who had experimented with a powerful psychotropic drug, an investigative journalist becomes embroiled in a government cover-up that threatens her sanity and her life.
Project MK Ultra was the code name of US government research operation that experimented on human behaviour from the early 1950s to the early 1970s. The CIA ran it, and most of its activities were illegal, not to mention ethically reprehensible, and utterly inhumane; manipulating people’s mental states and altering their cognitive functions through the (mis)use of psychotropic drugs such as LSD and DMT.
Much has been written and said about this outrageous sanctioned use of dangerous methodologies and administration of sensory deprivation, emotional abuse, and psychological torture upon unsuspecting college students, hospital patients, and prison inmates.
The Banshee Chapter takes the element of malevolent spectres and the conspiracy theory chestnut, and throws them into a dark pit of paranoia and supernatural dread. Intrigue is for the intrepid, but be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it. Or, to be precise, curiosity killed the cat.
Katie Winter plays Anna Roland, the journalist on a mission. She’s fearless, or maybe just reckless. Michael McMillian is her dear friend James, who imbibed a dose of DMT, Dimethyltriptamine, a dangerous psychedelic compound, and one that was used extensively during the MKUltra years. James and his colleague have both vanished. Anna is determined to find out what happened.
Ted Levine plays a Hunter S. Thompson-esque Thomas Blackburn, a renegade author lost in the wilderness, but with more than a few yarns, half-truths, and dirty white lies to spill. When Anna is invited to join in on a mind-expanding session, she does, much to her better judgment. Be careful what you’re looking for, because you might just find it.
Performances are good, especially Ted Levine who brings a charming sense of eccentricity to the movie’s atmosphere. Katie Winter certainly has screen presence, but she wasn’t always the most convincing.
With the low-budget ingenuity of Session 9 (2001) and The Blair Witch Project (1999), using location shooting, and relying on the presence of the unknown, with occasional shocks – and there are some real doozies – Blair Erickson has fashioned a very effective little spooker. I was reminded of the creeping doom of Absentia and Skew, two strong indie flicks from 2011. See The Banshee Chapter and prepare to be seriously spooked out.
The Banshee Chapter screens in 3D as part of Melbourne’s Monster Fest, Saturday November 30th, 5pm, Cinema Nova.